How start-ups can recruit great talent

Rapleaf has been really successful in recruiting engineers. And now that we are done with our first round of hiring (and won’t be hiring more until April), I thought I would offer my thoughts on recruiting great people. (and by start-up, I’m talking about companies with under 20 people)

First — never compromise. Never. Always go for the best talent. If you are worried or have a slight doubt, don’t hire them.

Second — where to find great candidates. Read on:

CrunchboardlogoGreat people are everywhere. Of the five candidates we hired, two were friends, one we found from Doostang (but was a friend of a friend), one from CrunchBoard (the TechCrunch job board which costs $200 to post), and one from Craigslist. 4 of the five people were engineers and one (from Doostang) was marketing/BD.

Overall, craigslist still was the best job board. We found we had to post multiple times (at $75 a pop) but found it most effective in getting us candidates. You also can get a lot of junk from craigslist. A lot. But it is worth it.

CrunchBoard was great too. LinkedIn is a great tool — and while we did not post on LinkedIn, we did use the site to proactively recruit people. And while we did not hire anyone from LinkedIn, we did make one offer and also found many great candidates who were just not cultural fits.

We found a few great candidates by sneaking into Linux World and posting up flyers in the bathrooms and above the urinal stalls. Vivek Sodera, Rapleaf’s enterprising marketing hire, pulled out all the stops to help us recruit engineers.

Our biggest disappointments were the Ruby Jobs board and Om Media job site. Ruby Jobs got us a few unqualified resumes. The Om Media jobs site yielded a total of zero resumes (though we did get one call from a recruiter). I’ll probably try both of these boards again in the future … the Ruby one is very targeted but might be too national. We were one of the first companies to post of Om Media — so that channel’s failure might be a factor of it being too new. We hope for better results next time.

We did not end up hiring from any recruiters. We found most of the recruiters we worked with did not provide great engineers and one of them had not even heard of Ruby. However, there were a few recruiters that were quite good. Dane Santos and Attilio Armeni were particularly good and we will definitely be using them again.


Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is.

One thing we did well is we had realistic job descriptions. We stated clearly that we work insane hours right now and that we expect new hires to do the same. We never sugar coated what we do and we got people really excited about the role and the goal rather than the perks.

We had a really tough interview process. For the non-engineer position we looked at over 660 resumes, did written interviews with over 100, did phone screens with over 60, and did in-person interviews with over 40.

For engineers we had an even bigger pool.

We had all candidates do a project where they could show us their creativity, dedication, and intelligence.

(note: since I get a lot of emails from people about recruiting, I’ll try to post more about this in the future).

1 thought on “How start-ups can recruit great talent

  1. hunter

    Auren –
    you know what might be fun – a guest post from one of the recent hires talking about what they thought of Rapleaf’s recruiting methods and openness.


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